After the uprising of the 17th June
The Secretary of the Writerıs Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?
CHANGING THE WHEEL
I sit by the roadside
The driver changes the wheel.
I do not like the place I have come from.
I do not like the place I am going to.
Why with impatience do I
Watch him changing the wheel?
COUNTER-SONG TO THE FRIENDLINESS OF THE WORLDı
So does that mean weıve got to rest contented
And say Thatıs how it is and always must beı
And spurn the brimming glass for whatıs been emptied
Because weıve heard itıs better to go thirsty?
So does that mean that weıve got to sit here shivering
Since uninvited guests are not admitted
And wait while those on top go on considering
What pains and joys we are to be permitted?
Better, we think, would be to rise in anger
And never go without the slightest pleasure
And, warding off those who bring pain and hunger
Fix up the world to live in at our leisure.
Everything changes. You can make
A fresh start with your final breath.
But what has happened has happened. And the water
You once poured into the wine cannot be
Drained off again.
What has happened has happened. The water
You once poured into the wine cannot be
Drained off again, but
Everything changes. You can make
A fresh start with your final breath.
I KNOW YOU ALL WANT ME TO CLEAR OUT
I know you all want me to clear out
I see I eat too much for you
I realise youıve no means of dealing with people like me
Well, Iım not clearing out.
I told all of you flat
To hand over your meat
I followed you round and
Put it to you that you have got to move out
I learned your language for the purpose
Everyone got the point
But next day there was no meat again.
I sat and waited one more day
To give you a chance to come
And put yourselves right.
When I come back
Under a rougher moon, my friends
I shall come in a tank
Talk though a gun and
Wipe you out.
Where my tank passes
Is a street
What my gun says
Is my opinion
And of the whole lot
Iıll spare only my brother
By just kicking him in the teeth.
IN FAVOUR OF A LONG, BROAD SKIRT
Your ample peasant skirtıs the one to pick
Where cunningly I emphasise the length:
Lifting it off you to its full extent
Revealing thighs and bottom, gives a kick.
Then when you tuck your legs up on our sofa
Let it ride up, so that, hidden in its shadow
Through deep discussions clouded in tobacco
Your flesh may hint our night is not yet over.
It is more than a base and lustful feeling
That makes me want a skirt as wide as this:
Your lovely movements bring to mind Colchis
The day Medea strolled towards the sea. -
These arenıt the grounds, though, on which Iım appealing
For such a skirt. Base ones will do for me.
NOW SHARE OUR VICTORY TOO
You shared our defeat, now share
Our victory too.
You warned us of many a wrong road
We walked it, you
Walked with us.
ON HEARING THAT A MIGHTY STATESMAN HAS FALLEN ILL
If the indispesable man frowns
Two empires quake.
If the indispensable man dies
The world looks around like a mother without milk for her
If the indispensable man were to come back a week after his
In the entire country there wouldnıt be a job for him as a
The fruit tree that bears no fruit
Is called sterile. Who
Examines the soil?
The branch that breaks
Is called rotten, but
Wasnıt there snow on it?
The headlong stream is termed violent
But the river bed hemming it in is
Termed violent by no one.
The storm that bends the birch trees
Is held to be violent
But how about the storm
That bends the backs of the roadworkers?
THE ABSTEMIOUS CHANCELLOR
They tell me the chancellor doesnıt drink
Eats no meat and never smokes
And he lives in a modest dwelling.
But they also tell me the poor
Starve and die in misery.
How much better it would be to have a state of which men
The chancellor is always drunk at cabinet meetings
Eyeing the smoke from their pipes, a few
Uneducated men sit altering the laws
There are no poor.
THE ACTIVE DISCONTENTED
The active discontented, your great teachers
Worked out the structure of a community
Where man is not a wolf to man
And discovered manıs delight in eating his fill and having a
roof over his head
And his wish to manage his own affairs.
They did not believe the preacherıs babble
That our terrible hunger will be appeased once our bellies
They chucked out dishes full of bad food.
They recognised the man they were told was the enemy
As their hungry neighbour.
They were pateint only in the struggle against the oppressors
Tolerant only of those who would not tolerate exploitation
Tired only of injustice.
He who kicked away the chair on which he sat uncomfortably
Who drove the ploughshare an inch deeper into the eart than
any before him
The discontented man, he shall be our teacher
In reconstructing the community.
Who gorged themselves full on a plate of promises
Shall get their bellies ripped out.
Hiding their crooked bones
Is a waste of a spoonful of sand.
THE BREAD OF THE PEOPLE
Justice is the bread of the people.
Sometimes it is plentiful, sometimes it is scarce.
Sometimes it tastes good, sometimes it tastes bad.
When the bread is scarce, there is hunger.
When the bread is bad, there is discontent.
Throw away the bad justice
Baked without love, kneaded without knowledge!
Justice without flavour, with a grey crust
The stale justice which comes too late!
If the bread is good and plentiful
The rest of the meal can be excused.
One cannot have plenty of everything all at once.
Nourished by the bread of justice
The work can be achieved
From which plenty comes.
As daily bread is necessary
So is daily justice.
It is even necessary several times a day.
From morning till night, at work, enjoying oneself.
At work which is an enjoyment.
In hard times and in happy times
The people requires the plentiful, wholesome
Daily bread of justice.
Since the bread of justice, then, is so important
Who, friends, shall bake it?
Who bakes the other bread?
Like the other bread
The bread of justice must be baked
By the people.
Plentiful, wholesome, daily.
Seven years I could not walk a step.
When I to the great physician came
He demanded: Why the crutches?
And I told him: I am lame.
He replied: Thatıs not surprising.
Be so good and try once more.
If youıre lame, itıs those contraptions.
Fall then! Crawl across the floor!
And he took my lovely crutches
Laughing with a fiendıs grimace
Broke them both across my back and
Threw them in the fireplace.
Well, Iım cured now: I can walk.
Cured by nothing more than laughter.
Sometimes, though, when I see sticks
I walk worse for some hours after.
The fight has been fought, letıs eat!
Even the blackest times must come to an end.
Whatever was left after the fight should grasp its knife and
The stronger man was he who survived
And the devil take the hindmost.
Get up, deadbeat!
The strong man is he who left no one behind.
Go out yet again, limp, crawl, lay about you
And bring in the hindmost!
When the man of iron beats them
The Muses sing louder.
With blackened eyes
They adore him like bitches.
Their buttocks twitch with pain.
Their thighs with lust.
THE WORLDıS ONE HOPE
Is oppression as old as the moss around ponds?
The moss around ponds is not avoidable.
Perhaps everything I see is natural, and I am sick and want to
remove what cannot be removed?
I have read songs of the Egyptians, of their men who built
the pyramids. They complained of their loads and asked when
oppression would cease. Thatıs four thousand years ago.
Oppression, it would seem, is like the moss and unavoidable.
When a child is about to be run down by a car one pulls
it on to the pavement.
Not the kindly man does that, to whom they put up
Anyone pulls the child away from the car.
But here many have been run down, and many pass by and
do nothing of the sort.
Is that because itıs so many who are suffering? Should one not
help them all the more because they are many? One helps
them less. Even the kindly walk past and after that are as
kindly as ever they were before walking past.
The more there are suffering, then, the more natural their
sufferings appear. Who wants to prevent the fishes in the sea
from getting wet?
And the suffering themselves share this callousness towards
themselves and are lacking in kindness towards themselves.
It is terrible that human beings so easily put up with existing
conditions, not only with the sufferings of strangers but also
with their own.
All those who have thought about the bad state of things
refuse to appeal to the compassion of one group of people for
another. But the compassion of the oppressed for the
oppressed is indispensable.
It is the worldıs one hope.
WHEN EVIL-DOING COMES LIKE FALLING RAIN
Like one who brings an important letter to the counter after
office hours: the counter is already closed.
Like one who seeks to warn the city of an impending flood,
but speaks another language. They do not understand
Like a beggar who knocks for the fifth time at a door where
he has four times been given something: the fifth
time he is hungry.
Like one whose blood flows from a wound and who awaits
the doctor: his blood goes on flowing.
So do we come forward and report that evil has been done us.
The first time it was reported that our friends were being
butchered there was a cry of horror. Then a hundred
were butchered. But when a thousand were butchered
and there was no end to the butchery, a blanket of
When evil-doing comes like falling rain, nobody calls out
When crimes begin to pile up they become invisible. When
sufferings become unendurable the cries are no longer
heard. The cries, too, fall like rain in summer.
TO THE STUDENTS OF THE WORKERSı AND PEASANTSı FACULTY
So there you sit. And how much blood was shed
That you might sit there. Do such stories bore you?
Well, donıt forget that others sat before you
Who later sat on people. Keep your head!
Your science will be valueless, youıll find
And learning will be sterile, if inviting
Unless you pledge your intellect to fighting
Against all enemies of all mankind.
Never forget that men like you got hurt
That you might sit here, not the other lot.
And now donıt shut your eyes, and donıt desert
But learn to learn, and try to learn for what.
TO A WAVERER
You tell us
It looks bad for our cause.
The darkness gets deeper. The powers get less.
Now, after we worked for so many years
We are in a more difficult position than at the start.
But the enemy stands there, stronger than ever before.
His powers appear to have grown. He has taken on an aspect
We however have made mistakes; there is no denying it.
Our numbers are dwindling.
Our slogans are in disarray. The enemy has twisted
Part of our words beyond recognition.
What is now false of what we said:
Some or all?
Whom do we still count on? Are we just left over, thrown out
Of the living stream? Shall we remain behind
Understanding no one and understood by none?
Have we got to be lucky?
This you ask. Expect
No other answer than your own.
Please do not assume that these poems, and my enjoyment and appreciation of them, is in any way indicative of my political views or desires. I appreciate them for what they are: Literature.
ps. I had no knowledge of Bertolt Brecht until I found myself stuck in a jail cell for a crime I didn't commit. I made great use of my time in jail, and read quite a bit of interesting stuff. Poetry by Bertolt Brecht helped me to pass the time away quite nicely.